Taking the buzz out of life

28 07 2010

Nature has an interesting article exploring the ramifications of a world without mosquitoes.

Overall the benefits appear to outweigh the negatives – but they are still given their credence. Mosquitoes, and their larvae, may be physicaly miniscule, but they are big players in the scheme of things. Their removal would have effects on food chains containing birds and fish, plus wider ecological effects – such as plants losing pollinators and changes to deer migration, and also possibly cause over-population in already stretched human communities.

Image: mosquito by tanakawho (CC by A from Flickr)





Taxonomy bugs (I mean fail)

12 07 2009

When I was trawling through the internet for some taxonomy fails to feature I came across some in the flickr stream of bug girl (from bug girl’s blog) – specifically these cases where an incorrect insect was used to illustrate an article on the insectoid origins of carmine, a common dye  that can be used in foods (the article made mistakes beyond just the wrong picture – read at bug girl).

At the time I decided not to run them on the blog. I mean identifying insects is tough work. They are  the most diverse group of animals on the planet. I got a migraine trying to wrap my head around the 50-70 marsupials of Dasyuridae which fit into the category “oversexed hoppy rat-like thing which may or may not have a pouch” – differentiating 1,000s of species, when your samples are usually smaller than your fingers – that’s hardcore. So, in my ignorance I was willing to forgive a news editor who uses a relatively unknown insect to represent another relatively unknown insect*.

Scientific American is slightly less easier to forgive when they use the same beetle with the incorrect story. It then gets a little bit crazier as editors decide to use their own stock imagery – any old insect will do, even a freaking ladybug.

This is not a once off. Bug girl highlights another capture of “bugs are bugs” in which stinkbugs are used to represent bed bugs (though, while they may only drink plant sap, I still would not want the former in my hotel room).

Or there is this epic taxonomy fail Alex Wild at myrmecos blog spotted on iStock Photo – either that or someone mutated a Drosophila a bit too much.

Oh dear…

And to leave you with a picture to round things off:

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

*Before entomologists send me hate mail – after my scale insect mimic identification, I now kow how different a carmine scale insect differs from the beetle pictured, so I can understand your frustation better. But hey, whatever, they’re still just bugs. Hate mail can be directed to zayzayem [at] hotmail [dot] com.





Ellos!

23 09 2008

Myrmecos reports his findings: Paraguay may be the only place in the world that is a net exporter of invasive ant species.

Ugh! I hate ants. I don’t think there is a living thing I detest more.

Don’t get me wrong they are social and technologically fascinating creatures, but they must be destroyed before they destroy us.





Heureka!

18 09 2008

I’m all a bit confused about this discovery.

It’s a new species of ant, found in Brazil, so they naturally are going around calling it “the ant from Mars“.

The ant is so strange and un-ant-like they are placing it in a new sub-family of ants. I’m not even sure if I should be actually calling it an ant (It’s a maybe-ant). The maybe-ant sub-family split off very early from other ant families in terms of evolutionary divergence – which has lead people to draw similarities between the situation of monotremes and other mammals. So, it’s also being dubbed the insect platypus. It does not have anything nearly as cool as a five-pronged schlong, poison spurs or even a duck-bill. It just has a shit pair of legs at the back.

That’s right. It’s a cripple. Nature quotes an entomologist as saying the maybe-ant “doesn’t even look like it could walk at all”. It’s also blind. Has a “delicate” mouth. And has pigmentation issues.* It probably hasn’t been discovered before because it has just been wallowing in self-pity for its entire existence.

The closest living relatives of ants are bees and wasps. The maybe-ant doesn’t quite share many characteristics with its other airborne cousins. Much like platypuses don’t really resemble modern day birds or lizards much either. Further examination may however show some similarities.

*Update: I could add that it is spineless too, but I think that’s just rubbing it in.